Portugal has never won the contest, being the longest country in the contest without a win. Their best finish was at the 1996 contest, when Lúcia Moniz came sixth with the song "O meu coração não tem cor". As such, Portugal has never finished in the top five of any contest.
Since semi-finals were introduced into the contest in 2004, Portugal could not proceed from the semi-final from 2004 to 2007, achieving a best place of 11th at Helsinki, 3 points away from qualifying. However, in 2008, ranking as 2nd place, Vânia Fernandes became the first Portuguese artist to qualify for the final, when she came second with "Senhora do mar (Negras águas)". In the final she came 13th with 69 points, Portugal's best finish since 1998. Portugal again qualified for the final in 2009, represented by Flor-de-Lis with "Todas as ruas do amor", where Portugal eventually finished 15th with 57 points. It qualified again in 2010 with Filipa Azevedo. In the Eurovision Song Contest 2011 Portugal failed to qualify for the Final for the first time in 3 years when they achieved 18th place with 22 points.
Portugal has been absent from four contests since their first participation. The country's first absence was in 1970 where Portugal, along with four other countries, boycotted the contest due to the result of the previous year, when four countries were announced the winner.
Portugal missed the 2000 contest due to their poor average results over the past five years. Despite being eligible to enter the 2002 contest, RTP declined to enter, and was replaced by eventual winner Latvia.
On 22 November 2012, Portugal confirmed that they would not be participating in the upcoming contest in 2013.
Festival da Canção (sometimes referred to as "Festival RTP da Canção") is the Portuguese national selection for the Eurovision Song Contest, organized by RTP, and is normally held in February/March of the year of the contest. It is one of the longest-running Eurovision selection methods. Previously a number of regional juries selected the winner, however recently the winner has been selected through televoting. In 2009 and 2010, a 50-50 system between district juries and televote (like in the ESC) has been used.
Despite Portugal being absent from the contest on three occasions, the Festival da Canção has mostly gone on regardlessly. In 1970, when Portugal boycotted the contest, Festival da Canção 1970 went on ahead, the same occurring in 2000. The only two times that Festival da Canção was not held was in 2002 and 2013.
XX on Semi Finals denotes auto-qualification. This could be due to two reasons. If a country won the previous year, they did not have to compete in Semi Finals, or back in the early 2005-2007 era, countries who had done well did not have to compete in Semi Finals the following year. The top ten non-Big Four along with the Big Four countries automatically qualified, for example, if Germany and France placed inside the top 10, the 11th and 12th spots were advanced to next year's Grand Final along with everyone within the top 10.
XX on Finals denotes an unsuccessful attempt to qualify to the final.
In the late 1990s the English actor and comedian Steve Coogan created the character "Tony Ferrino" for his television comedy series. "Tony Ferrino" is supposedly a Portuguese singer and winner of the Eurovision Song Contest; he is a stereotype based on singers and entertainers often seen on European television programmes in the 1970s and 1980s. The BBC produced a one-off programme The Tony Ferrino Phenomenon in 1997.